Tim Keller – in his masterful book with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor – asks a searing and important question:
“Why is it so hard to work? That is, why is it so often fruitless, pointless, and difficult?”
The book goes on to tackle this question and many others and has been one of the most formative books in my life. I’d describe it as a basic theology of work – not just “our jobs” but anything that is work – parenting, gardening, building. But the question above still haunts me nearly every week. “Why does my work so often feel fruitless, pointless and difficult? Why can’t I see what I’m working for more clearly?”
Keller helps us understand that much of our fruitlessness, pointlessness and difficulty is less our “fault” but often a tragic result of the fallen world we live in. That is, sometimes stuff just can’t “get fixed” no matter how hard we try.
We are also reminded that, “work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”
If this feels too abstract, let’s make it more concrete: If you work hard enough and please everyone and make the world a better place today, will that lead to your ultimate, eternal satisfaction and joy? What if tomorrow you fail at your job, let everyone down and make a whole bunch of people miserable? Does that secure your ultimate place in hell? The answer to both, of course, is no.
God is using the sum of our experiences – the good and the bad – to shape and love us as he draws us to himself. This is the meaning of “working all things together for our good.” And over all this he puts on love. It was never about our ability to earn it anyways. We simply can’t. So God became one of us and blazed the only path back to himself that he could – not by our good work, but by his infinite grace, so that no one can boast. No matter how good or bad our work feels today, God loves us. And boy am I glad he does.
Grace and Peace,